More than 300 employees attended NYCHA’s third annual Safety Symposium, hosted by the Office of Safety and Security at Johnson Houses on June 30.
With remarks from NYCHA and Teamsters Local 237 safety leaders, small-group discussions led by subject matter experts, employee safety congress reports, and even an original play by NYCHA’s Safety Players—the symposium provided information to sharpen the safety skills of frontline and supervisory staff and share with colleagues back at their developments.
“Safety is no accident,” General Manager Michael Kelly declared. “It has to be planned and intentional in programs that we create by and for ourselves.” Emphasizing employees’ vital role, Mr. Kelly remarked: “If you see an unsafe condition for yourself or others, you have the right and responsibility to speak up without fear of retaliation.”
On behalf of Teamsters Local 237 President Gregory Floyd, Health and Safety Coordinator Diane Stein thanked NYCHA for programs developed by “labor and management working together.” Commenting on the Make It Safe program, which permits employees to stop working on a job until their reported safety concerns are resolved she remarked, “It’s very unusual to have a program like this that so empowers employees.” Ms. Stein cited improved aspects of NYCHA’s safety program, including more safety conditions reported and resolved, greater use of personal protective equipment, and the growing skills of NYCHA’s safety associates.
An important aspect of NYCHA’s safety program, the safety associates—many of whom were in attendance— volunteer to serve on borough safety congresses to help resolve safety issues.
Vice President for Public Safety Gerald Nelson, Operations Senior Vice Presidents Luis Ponce and Brian Clarke, and Ms. Stein all commented on new and existing aspects of NYCHA’s safety program. These include NYCHA’s Safety Strategic Plan that codifies safety goals and objectives, the Elevator Department’s Safety-in-Motion program to heighten residents’ and employees’ awareness of elevator conditions, the pilot Hands-On Coaching Program for newly-assigned managers and other frontline staff, and NYCHA’s new Safety Forum that solicits best practices from employees.
Mr. Ponce also mentioned a less technical-sounding approach: empathy. “We need to look at the job not just from productivity,” he told supervisors. “Put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Model correct behavior and let staff know that you care about them.”
Many telling remarks, interspersed throughout the half-day program, were also made in field reports by frontline employees. Adams Houses Caretaker Niccola Massie reported her success in getting safety gloves that come in smaller sizes for her development, when she brought the problem to the attention of the Bronx Safety Congress, which she attends.
“We want to work with supervision as a team to get jobs done safely,” said Grant Houses Caretaker J Andre Gonzalez, of the Manhattan Safety Congress. “From broken compactors to sewer leaks, there are many safety congress success stories.”
While there were successes to praise and employees to recognize, many remarks from management and employees noted that much work remains before NYCHA reaches its safety goals.
“We need to improve communication between 250 Broadway and property management departments to make sure that safety is the first concern,” noted Operations Senior Vice President Brian Clarke.
In the keynote address, NYCHA’s long-time safety consultant James Wright provided the following tips for safety leaders:
• Listening is just as important as talking; to understand people’s actions, find out their reasons
• Question the status quo; don’t just accept past practices
• Never stop learning; bring your passion to this organization and make it a better and safer place for everybody.
Eleven employees serving in property management and other departments were recognized for their contributions to NYCHA’s safety program.
Safety Leadership Recognition Honorees